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A new report from the education consulting firm EAB, released today, examines some of the ripple effects of the pandemic that could hurt student retention over the long term, including social disengagement and worsening mental health among college students, as well as lower transfer rates. The report also offers advice to higher education leaders on how to address these issues.

“The impacts of the pandemic on enrollment and student success could ripple through higher education for years to come,” the report reads.

The report cites a March 2021 survey from Inside Higher Ed and College Pulse, which found that 73 percent of students said “friends and social life” was the aspect of campus life they missed most. A November 2021 survey that followed found that 52 percent of students surveyed reported socializing less than ever before, or more than in the spring but less than before the pandemic.

The crisis also exacerbated barriers to transfer, according to the report. It cites data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center that show the number of students transferring from community colleges to universities fell by 4 percent since 2019.

The report offers a range of suggestions to mitigate the costs of the pandemic on retention, including streamlining transfer pathways, collecting data to assess mental health initiatives and expanding opportunities for students to socialize with each other online.